The European Parliament is about to say yes to travel and tourism, and after today’s election, new trends may be set in European Tourism Policies. The bars for tourism are most likely to be raised with Elena Kountoura expected entry in European politics.
On May 8 eTurboNews reported about the well-liked Greek Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura had submitted her letter of resignation to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipra. She resigned to win a seat in the European Parliament, and it looks like she won.
Elena Kountoura, born in 1962 , and a former international model ran for the European Parliament, for the Independent Greeks party.
Today Europe voted for a new parliament and according to preliminary results the Independent Greek party lost its majority as the ruling party of Greece and will be number two when entering the EU Parliament. According to sources, the Independent Greek is still expected to have 5 delegates in Brussels and Elena Kountoura is number two on the list.
What does this mean for tourism in Europe? Elena Kountoura was seen as one of the most active, outspoken and accessible tourism ministers in the world. Transparency, her down to earth appearance also to the global media, and her vision made her one of the most liked and respected ministers.
She closely worked with Jamaica Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett, who was just elected chair of the UNWTO Regional Commission of the Americas, and former UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai as well as the former president of Malta Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca on the launch of the global tourism resilience center.
Elena Kountoura has also been supportive of a global initiative for Tourism and Poverty Alleviation known as ST-EP. ST- EP was put in place under former UNWTO Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli in 2002 in South Africa. The seven ST-EP mechanisms include the employment of the poor in tourism enterprises. The initiative is under the leadership of South Korean ambassador Dho Young-shim, and was praised by Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary-General of the United Nations.
“I will continue to work with the same passion as I did to make Greece a world champion in tourism… in order to make Greece a champion in Europe,” the former tourism minister said. She told Neo Magazine in 2015 while ago: “Greece has never been sexier: The record boom in Greek tourism with more to come.” She was correct: Greece attracted over as much as 33 million visitors in 2018, 30.1 million visitors in 2017 and 26.5 million in 2015 ]making Greece one of the most visited countries in Europe and the world, and contributing around 25% to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.
Under her leadership, Greece snagged the Best Destination – Leisure prize, while Kountoura herself was awarded as the Best Tourism Minister Worldwide and also received the Woman Achiever award from the Institute of South Asian Women (ISAW) for her contribution to the care of women and children.
Kountoura was also given an award by the International Institute for Peace through Tourism (IIPT) – Celebrating her for Greece’s successful strategy to develop tourism.
Her vision was not only praised in tourism awards but around the world. The South African Ambassador to Greece Marthinus van Schalkwyk praised Kounatoura in February for achieving to boost development in Greece’s tourism industry. Referring to the legal framework by the former minister as “pioneering on a global level”, the ambassador expressed an interest in receiving know-how from the Greek side to educate South Africa in the field of thematic tourism.
“The excellent results achieved in Greek tourism have decisively contributed to the country’s path to growth,” the South African ambassador said.
To summarize Elena Kountoura is expected to be a trendsetter in future EU tourism policies and understands the role the travel and tourism industry plays in peace and economic prosperity.
Europe and the world is waiting tonight for a long-awaited push for tourism in the European Parliament.